(Note: Part 1 of this - mostly talking about Arena and Daggerfall - is here.)
The third Elder Scrolls game (skipping Battlespire and Redguard, which weren't nearly the same thing and aren't included in the numbering system) was Morrowind, released in 2002. In the screenshots above, you can see how much difference six years meant to the graphics!
And Morrowind was, indeed, a great game. And yet,... I was disappointed that Bethesda hadn't continued with the procedurally-generated content they'd introduced in Daggerfall.
It wasn't that Morrowind was too small - I never did get to everything in the base game, to say nothing of the two expansions. But I liked the feeling that Daggerfall gave me, that it was a real world out there, most of which I'd never see, let alone influence.
And procedurally generated content doesn't have to be just the terrain and the buildings. People, too, are similar enough to have the same needs, yet plenty diverse in how those needs are expressed. I was very disappointed to see a mainstream game developer move away from the promise of that, leaving it to individuals working with far fewer resources.
There were minor disappointments, too. I loved riding horseback in Daggerfall, and driving a wagon. You could park your wagon outside a dungeon while you went exploring, then fill it with loot from the doorway, without ever leaving the dungeon.
That was far more realistic than carrying multiple suits of armor on your back, and it was also convenient. Let's face it, one of the real draws of an RPG is gathering loot, both to use and to sell. I guess we're all mercenary in that way, huh? Making that difficult, even for the sake of realism, is just annoying.
In Daggerfall, it worked well and it was realistic enough, too. Plus, I loved the sound effects - the clip-clop of my horse's hooves and the jangling of the harness - as I rode through town. (Of course, when it comes to riding a horse, and even fighting on horseback, no one has done that as well as the original Mount&Blade. I really don't understand why not.)
Finally, I have to mention the snowfall:
(Please note that that's not the original music from the game. If you want the original, check out this video. I would have posted that one, except for the screwy "dancing" he did.)
It's hard to believe now, given how poor the graphics seem these days, but I just loved those gentle snows in Daggerfall. Even Skyrim doesn't come close to that, not that I've seen, at least. Skyrim has blizzards, snow whipping past the character and constant wind noise, which gets so annoying that I've had to turn the environmental sounds way down.
Snow in Daggerfall was peaceful and lovely, even during a desperate battle. (And note, in that video, how you can walk or ride directly out of the city through a gate, with no cut-scene. You can't even do that in Skyrim, though the cities are much, much smaller. As I noted in my last post, that just blew me away when I played the game. Even better, there were other ways to enter a city, when the gates were locked.)
Of course, snow wasn't everywhere in Daggerfall. Different provinces had different terrain, different climates, different building styles. And snow is hardly a reason to play a game. But it was something I missed in Morrowind.
And then, early in the game, as I was exploring just outside of Seyda Neen, a thunderstorm rolled in. I had the speakers turned up high - for the sound effects - as usual, and I almost jumped out of my chair at the first crack of thunder. Then the heavens opened up and rain poured down!
It felt so real that I immediately tried to run under cover. Obviously, I didn't want to get wet. :) Of course, the game wasn't that real. But I found myself avoiding low areas, because I didn't want to get bogged down in the mud. The game wasn't that real, either, and I knew it. But my immersion in the game was so good that I tended to act as if it were.
I loved that, and I loved Morrowind in general. I spent most of my time just exploring the world. Well, I don't usually follow the main quests very far. But I did a little of that. And I joined the Fighters Guild and the Mages Guild, the Imperial Cult and the Imperial Legion, among others, and I completed many of those quests, too. It was lots of fun.
Now, I wasn't a fan of the blowing dust of the Ashlands, not at all. In a way, that was like the blowing snow of Skyrim. I like strange locations, but I want pretty ones. I want beautiful sights, even in very dangerous areas. And blowing dust or snow is just annoying. Still, there were plenty of beautiful sights to see (and if the dust was blowing, I could always wait a day for the weather to clear).
One other thing I liked about Morrowind - much better than in Skyrim - was that there were multiple ways to get around. There was no "fast travel" per se in Morrowind, but there were multiple ways to travel quickly from one part of the province to another.
You could take a silt strider - a giant insect you rode from city to city (though we never got to experience that, or even see it, unfortunately) - or a boat. You could teleport between mages guilds. If you completed a quest, you could teleport between propylon chambers elsewhere in Morrowind, too.
You were almost always close enough to one of those to travel quickly in Morrowind, but you stayed in-game by doing so. That's not the case when using the "fast travel" system of Oblivion or Skyrim. And although you can hop a wagon in Skyrim, that seems to be the only other option.
What happened to teleporting between mages guilds? Of course, there is no Mages Guild in Skyrim, but why did the technology have to disappear, too?
There were lots of things I loved about Morrowind, including the Athletics and Acrobatics skills that disappeared in later games - and many great spells like Levitation, Unlock, and Slowfall that have likewise been abandoned, apparently in an attempt to make later games as simple as possible.
One of the things I didn't like was the screwy leveling system. The basic idea was still the same, that you'd increase skills by using them, and that this would increase your character's level. (Enemy level increased with yours, which I liked, since it meant I could explore all I wanted, right from the start. And as the game went on, you got to see new creatures, which kept the game fresh.)
But you really had to know what you were doing with the leveling system. You pretty much had to game it. Otherwise, you'd increase in level too rapidly, without the skills - or the high attributes - necessary to survive. Some skills were very, very easy to increase, but, though useful, they wouldn't necessarily keep you alive. Others were quite slow to increase.
So instead of just picking "major skills" and "minor skills" to fit your character, you had to game it - at least, I did, since I'm not very good at 'real-time' combat. For example, I couldn't afford to make Alchemy a major or minor skill, even though it was very, very useful, and I practiced it all the time.
Well, that was pretty much why I couldn't make it a major skill. It was just too useful - for making money, not just in combat - and too easy to raise. In fact, I maxed out my Alchemy skill while I was still a low-level character, it was that easy.
Likewise, your Athletics skill increased just by moving your character (well, when running, but walking was painfully slow), so you couldn't afford to make that a major skill, either. And you had to make sure you'd increased enough skills based on different attributes so you could increase those attributes when leveling, too.
That part of the game was awkward, but it was just a minor issue, really. Certainly, I ended up loving Morrowind. I was still disappointed in the direction they'd taken the game after Daggerfall, but Morrowind was probably a better game (and far less buggy, as well). Much as I loved Daggerfall, I really can't complain about Morrowind.
But The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released four years later, and I'm afraid that was a disappointment. Ironically, I was disappointed mostly because it felt like I was just playing Morrowind again. Much as I loved Morrowind, I wanted a new game, not the same one I'd been playing for years.
Oh, there were minor changes, but almost all for the worse. The world felt much smaller. There were fewer spells. The skill system hadn't changed much, and that was something that needed to change. Otherwise, it seemed just like playing Morrowind in a different setting, without some of the details I'd liked in the previous game.
And the Oblivion gates were fun the first time I entered one, but not so much after that. It was an ugly realm - by design - and I don't much like to play in ugly settings.
But the worst thing about Oblivion, I think, was that my actions didn't seem to change anything. (True, this has been a problem throughout the series - and in almost all RPGs, in fact - but I guess I expected better in Oblivion.)
One of the first things you do in the main quest is to rescue Kvatch by closing the Oblivion gate - the first gate you encounter - that's opened near the town. Afterwards, everyone in the province recognizes you as "the hero of Kvatch." That was neat.
But what was not so neat - in fact, it was hugely disappointing - was that Kvatch stays a burned-out ruin afterwards. The residents of the town stay in their tent encampment on the road outside, even after you've closed the gate. They never return to the town and start rebuilding. They don't even leave and start over elsewhere. Nothing changes.
And that's a huge problem in a game where you're supposed to be helping people. Nothing you do seems to make the slightest difference. Why couldn't we see Kvatch starting to rebuild? Why couldn't the surviving townspeople have at least folded their tents and moved back into town?
Even if they'd have pitched their tents in the town, as a temporary measure (needing a place to sleep that hadn't been trashed or burned), at least that would have been something. At least you could see that your actions had mattered to them.
It was great to be called the hero of Kvatch afterwards, but my actions didn't seem to make the slightest difference to Kvatch families. So I could never get interested in the world. I didn't like the Oblivion side of things (inside the gates, I mean), although I did close a few of them. But mostly, I just wandered around.
And that was OK, but it was too much like Morrowind, without the neat locations and story and other features of Morrowind. In fact, out of all the earlier games, I remember Oblivion the least, even though it's the most recent. Nothing in the game really stood out for me. Later, I went back and played Morrowind some more. That was a lot more fun.
(Admittedly, I didn't try any of the Oblivion mods, and modding is something which has to be considered a huge plus in these games. If you don't like something, chances are you can find a mod - or even create a mod yourself - which will change it.
(Of course, if you rely on mods to change a game, I have to wonder if the game shouldn't just be a construction kit for mods. I've talked about procedurally-generated content in Daggerfall. Why couldn't you create something like that simply as the basis for a mod construction kit? You probably couldn't get 60 bucks for it, though.)
OK, next time, I promise, I'll actually start talking about Skryim. :)
I'm a skeptic. I think it makes sense to have reasons for what I believe, so I apportion my belief to the evidence. You're welcome to disagree. Please, tell me I'm wrong. I probably don't agree with anyone about everything. Why should disagreement be a problem? Check the Pages section below for series posts and links to book reviews and game posts, as well as contact info. I have varied interests, so there's a little bit of everything here. I encourage you to look around. - Bill
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true. - Robert Wilensky
It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong - Richard Feynman
The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other. - Sir Francis Bacon
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Speculation is perfectly all right, but if you stay there you've only founded a superstition. If you test it, you've started a science. - Hal Clement
No matter how many times a theory meets its tests successfully, there can be no certainty that it will not be overthrown by the next observation. This, then, is a cornerstone of modern natural philosophy. It makes no claim of attaining ultimate truth. In fact, the phrase "ultimate truth" becomes meaningless, because there is no way in which enough observations can be made to make truth certain and, therefore, "ultimate". - Isaac Asimov
The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion. - Treaty of Tripoli, passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams (1797)
I don't doubt the sincerity of dowsers, but even after we've demonstrated that they can't produce results that are any better than chance they'll still go away believing in their abilities... It is like the mother whose son is caught shoplifting on tape. She wonders why someone would want to frame her child by producing a fake video. - James Randi
During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church ... imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. - Mark Twain
Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. - Bertrand Russell
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. - Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. - Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.
This is not about proof. Science does not use proof. We favor evidence, and the work consists largely of the slow accumulation of evidence in support of ideas, not magically potent proofs that establish an idea as unassailable. - PZ Myers
No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. - President Barack Obama
The formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat. - Shekhar Gupta
We are prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small, persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs. - Carl Sagan
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. - Richard Dawkins
120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer. - Sam Harris
To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man. - Michael Servetus, burned at the stake in 1553
Democracy is not about majority rule; it is about minority rights. If there is no culture of not simply tolerating minorities, but actually treating them with equal rights, real democracy can't take root. - Thomas L. Friedman
We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason. - Thomas Macauley, 1830
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men. - Edward R. Murrow
The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best - that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. - Thomas Huxley
There is no absurdity so obvious that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. - Arthur Schopenhauer
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. ... Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. - President Thomas Jefferson
To be elected in America, no matter from what party, the candidates have no choice but to year after year pledge to lower taxes further and further. We have become the nation of Ken and Barbie, looking good but very poor at the math. - Rack Jite
Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them. - Steve Eley
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle. - Molly Ivins
In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. - H. L. Mencken
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. - Winston Churchill